An American Editor in the Land of the Canadian Oxford

by Kaci Schmitt

Published at 2015-03-25


As a freelance editor working for clients from all over the world (and currently based here in Portland, Oregon), I have to be aware of the differences that folks from different lands incorporate into their versions of English. There are four distinct English types: American, British, Australian, and Canadian.

Today, I'm going to address how I, an American editor, approach working with clients requesting Canadian English. 

Our countries may be connected, but we still follow some distinct approaches to this language we share. Out of the four English types in this “family,” American English is kind of like the kid brother singing about going his own way from British English. Canadian English follows many British English customs, but it also contains elements of American English and, according to Wikipedia, its own “Canadianisms.”  
All of this can be pretty confusing for an American editor who just wants to cast proper judgment (rather than judgement) on how to adhere to Canadian English as closely as possible when working with clients who request it. 
Below are just a few ways that I approach editing documents in Canadian English as an American-based editor:
  1. Double-check everything. I use the global find and replace option on Microsoft Word to replace Americanisms with Canadianisms. For example, kids go to college in the U.S., and to university in Canada. If I’m ever in doubt, I’ll double-check online with trusty, up-to-date sources. 
  2. Change the language setting on Microsoft Word to English (Canada), instead of my typical English (United States). This is a super important technical piece of advice. While the Spell Check feature isn’t fool-proof, it certainly helps—and Microsoft Word may automatically change my Canadian English spelling to American English. If I’m not looking and applying rule #1 (double-checking everything), I could easily miss an auto-corrected English type mistake.
  3. I keep in mind that I am a lifelong learner and embrace learning. For example, Canadian English uses “-ize” (as in realize, rather than realise), and double-ls (as in travelled) rather than single-ls like the American traveled. This means that it is best to approach each document I edit as a learner and to be curious.
Language is fascinating, and when we’re interested in what we do, we’re more likely to learn more!
If you work as a writer or an editor in a version of English other than your native English, do you have any tips or strategies that you use? Share them with us!
Also, for more information on American versus Canadian spelling, check out another blog post here!

Kaci Schmitt works as an English teacher and freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon, and she is also a graduate student studying school counselling (and editing plenty of dissertations in the process!). She loves her cat, coffee, and the Oxford comma. She writes at and is currently welcoming new writing and editing projects.